National Signing Day 2014 results: What Missouri needs from this recruiting class on offense

The 2014 recruiting class will be judged by its ability to fill gaps when players like Marcus Murphy leave after 2014. - Bill Carter

Missouri's 2014 signing class ranks where MOST Mizzou signing classes rank. Its success will be determined by its ability to fill needs in 2015 and beyond.

For most of the last eight seasons at Missouri, Gary Pinkel has taken top-35 or 40 classes and produced top-25 or 30 results. As would be expected, then, as the ink begins to dry on National Signing Day, it appears Mizzou's class will grade out between 30th and 40th. We'll see if Pinkel and company can produce loftier rankings next year while taking their top-five 2013 finish for a longer test drive, but in the meantime, there's a lot to like about this class, both in terms of high potential and addressed needs.

Recruiting is about future needs as much as current needs, and few coaching staffs do a better job of looking ahead than Missouri's. What we see from the 2014 class is a focus on where Mizzou will need help in 2015 and beyond. Let's first look at the offense.

Quarterback

  • Returnees: Maty Mauk (6'0, 200, So.), Eddie Printz (6'2, 215, RSFr.), Corbin Berkstresser (6'3, 225, Jr.), Trent Hosick (6'1, 225, RSFr.)
  • Newcomers: Marvin Zanders (6'2, 180, Fr.)
  • 2014 Needs: Barring massive injury trouble, nothing
  • 2015 Needs: Barring injuries or transfers, perhaps nothing

You like to take at least one quarterback per class no matter what, and I like what Missouri did here in taking Marvin Zanders. The Tigers have a potential young dual-threat option in Trent Hosick, but Hosick's shaped more like James Franklin than Brad Smith; in Zanders, the Tigers appear to have more of a Smith-type of athlete (I said type, mind you, not "HE'S THE NEXT BRAD SMITH"), someone who brings something unique to the table and could move to another position if need be.

From MUtigers.com:

Known as a poised presence in the pocket, but who is very dangerous when breaking away from pressure ... has shown a strong and accurate arm throwing on the run ... has outstanding quickness and foot speed that makes him dangerous on designed runs or when he chooses to tuck the ball and take off ... earned The Florida Times-Union All-First Coast Second Team recognition as a senior … amassed over 2,500 yards of total offense as a senior in 2013, and was responsible for 37 touchdowns ... completed 130-of-224 passes in 2013 for 1,866 yards and 22 TDs, while he ran for 705 yards (on nearly 7.0 yards per carry) and 15 more scores.

Running Back

  • Returnees: Russell Hansbrough (5'9, 190, Jr.), Marcus Murphy (5'9, 195, Sr.), Morgan Steward (6'0, 210, So.), Greg White (6'1, 220, Sr.)
  • Newcomers: Trevon Walters (5'10, 195, Fr.), Ish Witter (5'8, 195, Fr.)
  • 2014 Needs: Perhaps a third-stringer.
  • 2015 Needs: At least one major contributor.

Even without Henry Josey, Mizzou was looking pretty good at running back. Russell Hansbrough was perhaps Mizzou's best back in September, and Marcus Murphy was perhaps the best back in October before Josey caught fire down the stretch, and the Tigers will be just fine with these two and the bigger Morgan Steward getting a few carries per game. But if there's one thing we've learned in recent years, it's that Mizzou has no problem playing a lot of running backs and riding the hot hand as the situation requires. It's possible that either Trevon Walters (one of the players I'm most excited about in this class, simply from film and high school production/competition) or Ish Witter could snag a few carries, along with special teams duty, with a really good fall camp. But that would just be a bonus -- they were brought in to compete for more serious playing time (and return duty?) when Murphy graduates.

From MUtigers.com:

Walters

Back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons for Manatee High School and head coach Joe Kinnan, including a 1,704-yard senior season in 2013 with 15 total touchdowns … senior campaign aided Manatee on its journey to a second-straight undefeated regular season and district title … earned Florida Class 8A Second Team All-State recognition following his 2013 campaign … rated as the No. 16 all-purpose running back in the nation by Rivals.com.

Witter

Found the end zone throughout his career at Alonso High School for head coach Brian Emanuel, scoring 28 rushing touchdowns as a Raven … totaled 850 rushing yards and 10 scores on the ground as a senior in 2013, earning first team all-conference recognition for the second-straight year … rushed for 902 yards and six touchdowns as a junior in 2012, all while battling through a late season ankle injury … also participated in track and field at Alonso … noted how beautiful Mizzou’s campus was during his visit, along with the family-oriented atmosphere instilled by the Tigers’ coaches and players.

Wide Receiver

  • Returnees: Dorial Green-Beckham (6'6, 225, Jr.), Bud Sasser (6'2, 210), Jimmie Hunt (6'0, 215, Sr.), Darius White (6'3, 205, Sr.), Levi Copelin (6'2, 190), J'Mon Moore (6'3, 190, RSFr.), Wesley Leftwich (6'1, 200, Jr.), Gavin Otte (5'10, 200, Jr., walk-on), Sheldon Gerau (6'0, 205, Jr., walk-on)
  • Newcomers: Nate Brown (6'3, 205, Fr.), Lawrence Lee (5'11, 175, Fr.), DeSean Blair (6'2, 185, Fr.), Thomas Richard (6'0, 190, Fr.), Keyon Dilosa (6'3, 190, Fr.), Darnell Green-Beckham (6'5, 180, Fr.)
  • 2014 Needs: Perhaps one freshman capable of cracking the two-deep.
  • 2015 Needs: At least 2-3 major contributors.

In 2014, Mizzou returns three of last year's top five receivers (including DGB, who will obviously get plenty of preseason hype), along with an intriguing No. 4 and some young unknowns. If no freshman plays a major role this coming fall, that might be okay; it would also be a little bit dispiriting simply because of what happens after 2014. Mizzou will lose three seniors in Sasser, Hunt, and White, and has to expect to lose DGB to the pros as well. That leaves the Tigers with Copelin, Moore, Leftwich, and walk-ons. This class simply must be ready to contribute in 2015, and the best way to grow optimistic about that is if a couple of them play well in 2014. Nate Brown is the most likely candidate, but look out for Lee (who has gotten strong sleeper hype) and Richard, who dominated lesser competition in high school. Lee and Green-Beckham will need to add some weight, but this looks like a physically ready sixsome.

From MUtigers.com:

Brown

Ability to lead and his productivity at wide receiver caught the eye of Mizzou’s coaching staff … turned in a prolific senior season for North Gwinnett High School and head coach Bob Sphire, making 61 catches for 1,081 yards and 21 touchdowns … helped the Bulldogs to a 13-3 season capped with an appearance in the Georgia Class AAAAAA State Football Championship game … earned first team all-state recognition as a senior from several outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia Sportswriters Association … chose Mizzou over Georgia, Illinois, Louisville, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Yale, among others.

Lee

Speed and explosive ability turned Mizzou’s coaches on to the wide receiver prospect … Florida Class 5A First Team All-State for West Florida Tech High School and head coach Harry Lees as a junior in 2012 … earned honorable mention all-state as a sophomore in 2011 and second team all-state recognition as a senior in 2013 …  … high school teammate of current Mizzou DL Nate Crawford and PK Luke Jackson, as well as fellow 2014 signee Rocel McWilliams … chose Mizzou after originally committing to Tennessee.

Blair

Wide receiver recruit that possesses both the frame and speed for the position with great ball skills, according to Mizzou’s coaches … a "Super 75" selection by The Florida Times-Union as a senior in 2013 for Sandalwood High School and head coach Adam Geis … earned Florida Class 8A Second Team All-State recognition following his senior season … breakout year came as a junior in 2012 at Sandalwood after spending his first two high school seasons at Terry Parker High School, in which he snagged 36 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Richard

A major offensive difference-maker for Christ Presbyterian Academy and head coach Ingle Martin over his final two high school seasons, totaling 122 receptions for 2,175 yards and 27 touchdowns … went out with a bang as he recorded 67 catches for 1,103 yards and 14 scores as a senior in 2013 … earned first team all-state recognition for his final high school season … offensive showcase for the Lions came after opting for only basketball in his first two years of high school at CPA … also played cornerback in his first season as a junior in 2012, helping the squad to a 13-1 record and Tennessee Class 3A State Championship semifinals … senior campaign included powering the Lions to a state runners-up finish.

Dilosa

Brings good burst and body control to the table, according to the Mizzou coaching staff, with great size for the wide receiver position … knack for making the big play for Round Rock High School and head coach Jeff Cheatham during his career … hauled in 55 receptions for 711 yards and five touchdowns as a senior in 2013 … explosive ability is apparent, as three of his five scoring catches as a senior covered more than 60 yards … also logged an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during his final season of play at Round Rock.

Green-Beckham

Has battled leukemia and undergone treatment during his high school career, all while continuing to be a promising football and basketball player for head coach and father, John Beckham … caught 16 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2010 … forced to miss the 2011 season, but rebounded to make 29 catches for 383 yards over his final two seasons at Hillcrest … earned All-Ozark Conference recognition three out of his four seasons at Hillcrest … noted that being a long-time Mizzou fan helped in his recruitment, along with attending football camp in Columbia for several years.

Tight End

  • Returnees: Sean Culkin (6'6, 245, So.), Jason Reese (6'5, 240, RSFr.), Clayton Echard (6'4, 255, Jr., walk-on)
  • Newcomers: Kendall Blanton (6'6, 230, Fr.), Grant Jones (6'3, 225, Fr.)
  • 2014 Needs: Nothing? Something? No idea.
  • 2015 Needs: No idea.

Tight end is a bit of a mystery for Mizzou. Sean Culkin earned rave reviews in fall camp last year, and we heard a lot about how the TE position would be used as a true tight end in 2013 -- blocking, receiving, etc. Only ... they mostly blocked last fall, and Eric Waters turned out to be better at that than Culkin, who caught just one pass for six yards. If Mizzou is looking for a blocking-first guy, there's no telling whether Blanton and/or Jones (who could also end up on defense) are going to be physically ready for that. That might have to come from Culkin, Reese, and Echard. But if the coaches are looking for more receiving production, and the athletic Blanton is ready to contribute in that regard, playing time might be available.

From MUtigers.com:

Blanton

Hauled in 15 catches for 216 yards and two scores as a senior in 2013 in a predominantly run-oriented offense at Blue Springs South High School for head coach Greg Oder … rated as the 12th-best tight end prospect in the class of 2014 by ESPN.com … father, Jerry, was a standout linebacker at Kentucky and played seven seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jones

Hometown athlete whose father, Brian Jones, coaches running backs at Mizzou … two-way player for Hickman High School, making an impact at both tight end and defensive end … earned all-district and all-area recognition as a senior in 2013, making 52 tackles with 10.0 tackles-for-loss and 7.0 sacks … illustrated his nose for the ball with two blocked punts and one blocked PAT during his final high school season … scored eight touchdowns during his final two seasons at Hickman.

Offensive Line (Outside)

  • Returnees: Mitch Morse (6'6, 305, Sr.), Clay Rhodes (6'5, 290, RSFr.), Jordan Williams (6'3, 295, So.), Taylor Chappell (6'5, 300, So.), Michael Boddie (6'5, 295, Jr.)
  • Newcomers: Paul Adams (6'6, 280, Fr.), Michael Fairchild (6'5, 280, Fr.), Sam Bailey (6'4, 265, Fr.)
  • 2014 Needs: Probably nothing
  • 2015 Needs: At least one player ready to crack the two-deep

To a certain extent, the health of the offensive tackle position depends on Clay Rhodes. Jordan Williams and Taylor Chappell both spent all or most of 2013 on the two-deep, and either could do a reasonable Justin Britt impersonation. (Well, they'd be doing a Mitch Morse impersonation while Morse impersonates Britt, I guess.) But we heard a lot of good things about Rhodes over the last year, and if he's a true threat to start, then Mizzou has a wonderfully healthy two-deep, and freshman contribution is highly unlikely. But if he's slow to come along, there might be a spot for an over-achieving true freshman. Regardless, Morse graduates after 2014, and one of these three will likely need to be ready to play a major role in 2015. Adams comes the most highly touted, but Fairchild is in for spring, and Bailey's athleticism is intriguing.

From MUtigers.com:

Adams

A two-way lineman who impressed Mizzou’s coaching staff with his athleticism and strong hands, coupled with a great lineman frame … played at Christ Presbyterian Academy for head coach Ingle Martin … helped block the Lions to a 14-1 record and Tennessee Class 3A State Championship Runner-Up performance as a senior in 2013 … showed versatility with his play on the defensive side with 41 tackles (34 solo), including 8.0 tackles-for-loss in his final high school season … was awarded with one of the Tennessee Titans’ Mr. Football awards after his senior season … considered the No. 12 overall recruit in the state of Tennessee by Rivals.com … led squad to a 13-1 record and state semifinals appearance as a junior in 2012 … also played basketball for CPA … joined in the 2014 signing class by CPA teammate Thomas Richard … parents – Tim and Ashley Adams … chose Mizzou over offers from Cincinnati, Mississippi State and South Florida … plans to major in business management at the University of Missouri … was impressed with Mizzou’s entire campus environment during his visit, and enjoyed his meetings with Tiger coaches.

Fairchild

A hard-working offensive line prospect that excites Mizzou’s coaches with his aggressiveness and ability to finish blocks … one of the top linemen from the state of Kansas' class of 2014, earning multiple first team-all-state recognitions ... blazed a trail for Blue Valley West High School and head coach Scott Wright, blocking the Jaguars into the Class 5A state semifinals as a senior in 2013 ... possesses a large frame that has Mizzou coaches excited about his growth in the future ... also played defensive tackle for the Jaguars ... father, Paul, played football at Kansas and spent seven seasons in the NFL playing guard for the New England Patriots (1984-90) ... chose Mizzou early in the recruiting process after drawing initial interest from Arkansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Penn State.

Bailey

Caught the attention of Mizzou’s coaches with his ability to explode off the line, and also moves well in space … a tight end and defensive end for Lamar High School and head coach Scott Bailey who projects to the offensive line for the Tigers ... helped Lamar win three consecutive Missouri Class 2 State Championships … notched a PBU in the 2013 Missouri Class 2A title game, a 42-0 win over Lawson … named First Team All-State on the defensive line by the Missouri Sportswriters Association … American Family Insurance All-Ozarks First Team selection, along with first team all-conference recognition … claimed the state title in discus as a junior … also played basketball for Lamar … chose Mizzou over interest from Arkansas, Army and Kansas State, among others.

Offensive Line (Interior)

The interior offensive line was an extreme weakness in 2012 and could become an extreme strength in 2014. Evan Boehm returns to anchor the middle (and since centers rarely go pro early, it seems a relatively safe assumption to think he'll be back in 2015), McGovern started all of 2013, Gatti spelled Max Copeland in the starting lineup for a couple of games, and Hall gave Copeland major competition for the starting role in the preseason. There is strong experience here, and four of the five players I just mentioned are juniors. If Andy Bauer, apparently mostly recovered from fall injuries, decides he's ready to dominate out of the gates, great. More likely, however, both he and Kevin Pendleton will have time to lose some bad weight, add some good weight, and be ready for major roles in 2016.

From MUtigers.com:

Bauer

Dependable mover in the trenches during his career at DeSmet Jesuit High School for head coach Pat Mahoney … named an Under Armour High School All-American, one of just 90 players across the country selected to play in the game … forced to the sideline for his senior season in 2013 and he began rehabbing to prepare for the collegiate level … helped lead DeSmet to a Missouri Class 6 State Championship playoffs semifinal appearance as a junior in 2012 … earned back-to-back first team all-state nods on the offensive line as a sophomore and junior… rated as the No. 99 overall recruit in the country in the "ESPN300" … placed as the eighth-best offensive tackle prospect in the country by both Rivals and ESPN … chose Mizzou over offers from many of the other top programs in the country, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin, among others.

Pendleton

A physical presence in the trenches for Lee’s Summit West High School and head coach Royce Boehm, playing both left tackle and right tackle in two seasons with the Titans … earned Missouri Class 5 First Team All-State recognition on the offensive line as a senior in 2013, helping the Titans claim the Class 5 State Championship … also brought in First Team All-Metro honors from the Kansas City Star … named to American Family Insurance’s 2013 All-USA Missouri Football Team … earned first team all-conference recognition every season of his high school career … high school teammate of fellow 214 Mizzou signee Logan Cheadle and also played with current Mizzou center Evan Boehm.

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